90 years young: Betty at the home of James and Leo Ostroburski, January 2017.

90 years young: Betty at the home of James and Leo Ostroburski, January 2017.

Melbourne philanthropist, Betty Amsden AO, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the weekend, aged 90.

Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Betty will tell you that she was one of the warmest and most spirited people you could ever hope to meet.

She always had a twinkle in her eye and a big grin that spoke volumes about her life of adventure.

Her humanity was legendary, both in terms of her generosity as a philanthropist and the warmth she bestowed upon those around her: associates, friends, kids, puppies, staff at the Arts Centre cafe—it didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, Betty was everyone’s friend.

Mind you, she wasn’t one to beat around the bush—she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Betty’s generosity spanned the arts spectrum and beyond. Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, the Arts Centre Foundation, the Australian Ballet School, Orchestra Victoria, Polyglot Theatre and Guide Dogs Victoria all enjoyed her support.

Her community-mindedness and work ethic were legendary: “The harder you work, the luckier you get!” she counselled.

“My money wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter—I’ve worked really hard. I’m not a Pratt or a Potter, I’m just Betty Amsden doing my bit in the little way I can.”

One of Betty’s closest mentoring relationships, which, over the years, came to be more of a familial relationship, was with Melbourne-based arts philanthropist, James Ostroburski.

“Over the past five years, Betty had become the voice in the back of my head. Generosity and love formed part of her DNA,” James says fondly.

“She was a mentor, a fairy grandmother (to many) and an outstanding Australian. I will miss her like crazy.”

Melbourne Women’s Fund founders Pat Burke and Gillian Hund honoured Betty’s passionate and fearless spirit.

“A wise woman, a great friend, a very generous philanthropist, Betty will be remembered for her quickness of mind, absolute commitment to the organisations receiving her support and her great belief that through example we can, and should, become vital members of our own giving community.”

But the last word surely goes to Betty herself, who, as one of philanthropy’s most passionate advocates, never missed an opportunity to encorage others to give:

“There is joy in giving—I just love it. I wish I had twenty times the money I have so I can do twenty times more good. You can’t take it with you—you might as well do something with it while you’re here.”



Betty Amsden: If you have two pennies, give one away




Photo courtesy of James Ostroburski.